Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New study finds distinct microbes living next to corals

22.05.2019

Symbiotic algae living inside corals provide those animals with their vibrant color, as well as many of the nutrients they need to survive. That algae, and other microbes within the bodies of corals, have been extensively studied--yet until now, researchers have largely ignored the microbial communities just outside of the coral colonies.

A new study from scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has begun to describe and catalogue microbes that live just a few centimeters from the surface of corals, laying the groundwork for future studies. The researchers' work will be published May 21 in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.


A close up view of the surface of an Orbicella faveolata coral colony from a reef in Los Canarreos, Cuba.

Credit: Amy Apprill, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

"Microbes are everywhere on reefs. There's roughly a million of them in a single milliliter, which is about 20 drops, of seawater. But we don't yet have a good sense of the microbial population that exists right next to corals," says Laura Weber, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the joint WHOI-MIT program.

"There's some evidence from previous studies that corals may be surrounded by unique microbial cells, but many questions are still unanswered. Do these cells differ with coral species or reef site? How might they function?" she says.

To begin to chip away at those questions, Weber and her colleagues focused on sampling the seawater surrounding Caribbean corals across multiple reefs.

Weber thinks that microbes immediately next to the corals could play a role in breaking down waste products from the colonies, introducing new nutrients and potentially letting symbiotic algae or pathogens into the corals themselves.

Along with her PhD advisor, Amy Apprill, Weber traveled to a protected coral reef system called the "Jardines de la Reina," located amid a string of remote islands near the southern coast of Cuba. Once there, Weber teamed with local Cuban scientists Patricia Gonzalez-Díaz and Maickel Armenteros to dive on the reefs and collect dozens of small samples from the water near five different species of coral.

"The Cuban reefs provided a perfect opportunity for this study. Because they're so remote, there's limited impact from human activities," says Apprill, a coral reef ecologist at WHOI and senior author on the paper. A majority of the reef system was established as a marine protected area by the Cuban government in 1996, so fishing is prohibited and diving tourism is restricted.

"The Cuban scientists we collaborated with are also doing research that complements our own. They have extensive knowledge of their marine environment, and provided access to research permits, which was a clear advantage when planning sites for cruises," Apprill adds.

Once the samples were back in the US, Weber analyzed the genetic material of the microbes inside them to figure out which species were present. She found that different types of coral did indeed have different microbial communities living near them. "We started finding cool species-specific trends," Weber says.

"I didn't think we would see any differences at all--but it turned out that in some areas, the bacterium Endozoicomonas, which lives symbiotically with corals, was actually enriched in the seawater closer to corals compared to the surrounding reef water. That means the region adjacent to corals could be important for attracting symbionts to a coral's surface, or it could represent a region where corals shed their symbionts."

In addition to understanding which microbes are living next to corals, Weber and Apprill also looked at the microorganisms' potential ecological functions. They found that the seawater microbes contained genes that let them interact with the coral surface, suggesting that there may be important interactions between seawater microorganisms and the coral surface.

"Scientists have been working for a while now to understand the role of microorganisms in reef environments and within coral colonies. But now we have evidence that demonstrates a possible relationship between seawater microbes and coral symbionts. That gives us some clues to how they find and infect coral colonies, and how they might impact the health of the corals. It's very exciting," Weber says.

This project was funded by the Dalio Explore Fund, which supports scientific research at WHOI. The fund is part of Dalio Philanthropies' larger commitment to ocean exploration and discovery, including the new OceanX initiative.

"We are thrilled to support WHOI's scientific research efforts through the Dalio Explore Fund," said Vincent Pieribone, Vice Chairman, OceanX. "The findings from this mission will help reveal the secret lives of coral, how their microbiome - similar to ours - supports good health, and how, when they are at an imbalance, corals, like humans, can become sick."

###

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans' role in the changing global environment.

For more information, please visit http://www.whoi.edu.

Media Contact

WHOI Media Office
508-289-3340

 @WHOImedia

http://www.whoi.edu 

WHOI Media Office | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.whoi.edu/?p=42664&post_type=news_release&preview=1&_ppp=10a834b864
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/lno.11190

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Exciting Plant Vacuoles
14.06.2019 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht A microscopic topographic map of cellular function
13.06.2019 | University of Missouri-Columbia

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

Im Focus: Tiny light box opens new doors into the nanoworld

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.

Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...

Im Focus: Cost-effective and individualized advanced electronic packaging in small batches now available

Fraunhofer IZM is joining the EUROPRACTICE IC Service platform. Together, the partners are making fan-out wafer level packaging (FOWLP) for electronic devices available and affordable even in small batches – and thus of interest to research institutes, universities, and SMEs. Costs can be significantly reduced by up to ten customers implementing individual fan-out wafer level packaging for their ICs or other components on a multi-project wafer. The target group includes any organization that does not produce in large quantities, but requires prototypes.

Research always means trying things out and daring to do new things. Research institutes, universities, and SMEs do not produce in large batches, but rather...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Concert of magnetic moments

14.06.2019 | Information Technology

Materials informatics reveals new class of super-hard alloys

14.06.2019 | Materials Sciences

New imaging modality targets cholesterol in arterial plaque

14.06.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>